The new Kenilworth School: Ten years in the making
By James Smith
9th Sep 2023 | Local Features
This week marks the opening of the new 2,200 pupil state school in Kenilworth - over a decade after the state-of-the-art facility was first conceived.
At £45.6 million it is the largest school build project in England and, unusually, includes no direct funding from the Department for Education (DfE) or the local education authority.
In 2012, Warwick District Council (WDC) announced its local plan for Kenilworth to include over 1,000 new houses for the town.
At the time Kenilworth School & Sixth Form was based on two sites in the town, delivering 'outstanding' education to 1,700 students from ageing 1960s era buildings. And, as a result of funding cuts, was struggling to fund the two separate sites.
Back in 2008, forward-thinking governors converted the school to be a trust school (under New Labour's Education & Inspections Act 2006), giving them a certain level of autonomy from the local education authority and enabling it to own and maintain its own land and buildings.
This status and afforded the school the opportunity to look at building a new home, to update facilities and accommodate the increase in number of families destined for Kenilworth's new homes.
The governors and senior leaders at KSSF held a workshop at which they "dared to envisage" a brand new facility for the school in the town.
The then governors at Kenilworth School & Sixth Form approached Arup to act as project directors of the proposed scheme.
Despite some opposition to the size of the newly proposed school, KSSF was keen to maintain one secondary school in the town, feeling that two schools could be divisive in splitting the community.
Once the financial figures were worked through – including an open market valuation of the existing school sites - it was felt there would be a cash flow issue in securing a site and then building the school before it vacated its existing sites.
Jeremy Wright, MP for Kenilworth, played an important part in setting up meetings for governors to explain the proposed project to DfE ministers.
To support the local plan, the council stepped up to partner the school and together they secured around £9 million funding from the housing infrastructure fund, and WDC agreed to forward fund the s106 developer monies due to the school from the impending housing developments in the town.
This would ensure that, unlike many other towns, there would be expanded secondary school places available before housing had been built.
Sites around the town were identified and after much negotiation a greenfield site was secured on the east side of the town, which would be close to and surrounded by the new housing developments.
Kenilworth converted to become a Multi Academy Trust in January 2019.
A rigorous selection process was assisted by Arup to select architects, quantity surveyors and finally the contractor.
Morgan Sindall was appointed in 2019 as main contractor and has worked closely with the school (much of the build happened over the Covid period) to deliver the school within a "very tight funding envelope".
Building work on the Glasshouse Lane school began in May 2021, with the keys handed over by contractor Morgan Sindall in July.
The single-building school is designed with five wings with a "unique identity".
Between each wing is a courtyard which are intended to serve as "bespoke learning areas and pastoral retreats", providing students with an "environment that nurtures their mental well-being".
Football pitches, 3G pitches, tennis courts, a gym, sports hall and a dance studio have all also been built and will be available to hire from the community.
Bookings will be taken online and handled by the school rather than an external company.
Meanwhile the existing Leyes Lane and Rouncil Lane sites will eventually be turned into houses.
The school was also quick to thank the various donors who have helped pay for the "extras" to enhance the building, including seating in the theatre and kitting out the learning resource centre.
A board thanking all the donors has been installed in the reception area.
And the learning resource centre has been named after the William Edwards Educational Charity which donated £250,000 to the project.
Commenting on the new school, Shirley Whiting, chair of Kenilworth Multi Academy Trust (KMAT) said: "We are immensely proud to have delivered such an exciting project for Kenilworth.
"The new school is a testament to the hard work and determination of all those involved over the last 10 years and secures a fantastic future-proof facility for the students of Kenilworth and the community."
Hayden Abbott, CEO of KMAT, and had been Headteacher at KSSF since 2008 and involved in the project since the start, commented: "It is a joy to be able to give staff and students in Kenilworth the opportunity to teach and learn in such state of the art facilities.
"Personally it has been a very rewarding journey and the staff, involved in IT, finance and estates, and in the incoming Headteacher, in particular, have worked incredibly hard to support the preparations for opening the new school at the start of this term.
"The fundraising team have also done a marvellous job in securing additional contributions from the community to enhance the project."